Travel Suisse: Montreux and the Jazz Festival

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I think there is no doubt that I live in a very cool place. Geneva is beautiful, but some of the biggest benefits come from the location – how close so many interesting places are from here. I certainly felt blessed a few weekends ago when I had the opportunity to do some incredible things, so easily. It started when I went to go pick my friend up at Chamonix after she hiked the Mont Blanc trail (so impressed by her, by the way). Firstly, I love how going to Chamonix is really no big deal – the drive is less than an hour. And secondly, while we were there, we took in the Climbing World Cup. We cheered on the Canadian, who climbed that thing like a spider, falling just below the top line. So much fun.

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My friend and I had decided to take in the Montreux Jazz Festival the next day. This jazz festival is a huge international destination, so it’s actually kind of funny that we just said: let’s hop on the next train to Montreux and see what happens. Things could have gone wrong.

And yet it was so awesome. The train in itself made me very happy. I’ve done very little train travel while in Europe (although it seems sacrilege to not while you’re in Switzerland) so this was my chance to get on the rails. Even though I’ve driven the highway right next to the train many times, it seemed different!

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And then we came to Montreux, which was bustling with crowds and vendors and buskers and party boats and paragliders performing for the crowds before smashing into the lake. Following the trail of vendors, we headed away from the jazz part of the festival first, walking partly around the lake to get a view of famous Chateau de Chillon.

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Well, we didn’t get all the way there, but it was nice to get some beautiful vistas of the lake.

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If you didn’t know you were at a mountain lake, you would be forgiven for thinking it was the French Riviera. It helped that it was about 35C out. God, it was gorgeous.

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I’m including this photo because we walking along the public path and saw this and were like: what a charming vista with a pretty boat, will make a good photo, when the owner (or someone) jumped up and angrily demanded five francs for the photo. Asshole. So now this entirely free photo is out there on the internet. I wonder if he actually did manage to shake anyone down for money.

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So then we wandered back to the main jazz venues. We didn’t have tickets for any of the major shows (although Lenny Kravitz was playing that night), so we enjoyed the free shows, like music in the park, which was playing some traditional jazz numbers. Also there were some fantastic buskers, which when listened to next to the lake at twilight ended up being pretty magical.

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Then on to the food. There were food stands for every type of food imaginable, as well as pop-up restaurants built up over the lake. We settled on sushi, and to our delight it came with a conveyor belt of sushi! Strong magnets held the plates in place as they slid by us, tempting us with deliciousness. I think sushi should always be served like this, because when I’m ordering from a menu I always get about twice as much as I really need. This way, we ate until we were full. So fantastic.

After one last glass of champagne, it was time to head home. We walked to the train station and discovered a train heading back to Geneva right that second, so we hopped on. I was a little nervous because while I assumed the tickets we bought were round trip, I wasn’t entirely sure. So I didn’t relax until someone came to take the ticket halfway through the trip. I held my breath as he paused, then gave them back and wished me a bonne soiree. And that was that. A train, a bus, and a short walk through the corn fields found us back chez nous again. This is the kind of experience I couldn’t have gotten back home for sure. So I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity, and I’m so thankful that I got to experience with a good friend from home.

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